As I was putting together this post of Allison + Johnny’s cloudy walk through Brooklyn, right up to the water’s edge, I haven’t been able to get the chorus of the Avett Brother’s “I and love and you” out of my head.

“Brooklyn Brooklyn take me in.”

Although these two have no trouble saying I and Love and You — as you’ll be able to tell from these photos.

Not going to lie, I probably edited every single one of these photos abouuuuut seven times. I kept going back and forth between trying to make the photos appear sunnier than it was but then I would hate it because then the photos didn’t feel like that nighttime, cloudy walk through the city felt. So, as you’ll see, I’ve finally embraced the grey that cloudy sky dealt. This session shows one of my absolute favorite ways to take portraits, just exploring with a couple — a general destination in mind but with the photos less about a performance as much as focusing on genuinely enjoying our time, the company, the evening and, in this case, the city.

Goodness gracious I’m obsessed with shooting in cities. I love the natural energy, excitement and exploration that comes with being in New York City. There’s so much story there, hence why I can never get enough and am always looking for an excuse to go back.

And in case you made it to the end of the post and are scratching your head like, “Wait, didn’t I JUST see these people on your blog, Jillian?” The answer is yes and yes. The reason is that they are wonderful and I’m obsessed with them. Which brings me to the second song this post reminds me of, a Whitney Houston classic:

“AND IIIIIIIIII-EE-IIIIII, WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUU-OOOOO-OOOO-OOOO”

That song goes out to Allison, Johnny and NYC — xoxo, Jillian

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When you go into the kids’ room in the morning before the sun is all the way up and brother has climbed into baby sister’s crib.

When cooking waffles as a family means wiping batter off of quicker-than-you-remembered baby hands and was that egg in Beckham’s hair?? How did that even get there . . . ?

Grabbing a dry waffle in your hand so that you can set up paints for your two-year-old to keep him busy. When mom and dad tag team eating because you can’t both really sit down at the same time for very long with two kids this little.

When a bath is required after breakfast because there is food all over just about every inch of that babe’s body.

When daddy makes sure to kiss everyone goodbye before leaving for work.

When you’re finishing your now cold coffee after laying your baby down for a morning nap. When you pull your firstborn into your lap for his first one-on-one momma time for the the day.

It certainly isn’t the easiest or most glamorous of life seasons. But DANGIT if there isn’t so much sweetness in it that it hurts sometime? This is what I’m passionate about capturing. Real family moments. Because as cute as those posed photos of everyone smiling at the camera are (and I mean that, they can be so cute!), what do they actually tell you about that particular season of life in your family? In the short (and yet long?? and absolutely wonderful and yet completely imperfect??) nine months that I’ve been a mom, I’ve been finding myself thinking “Oh, I wish I had a photo from all of us snuggling in bed together early in the morning” because that time is so, so sweet to me. Or “I wish I had a photo of how giggly Juni gets on her changing table when she’s sleepy but still happy before bedtime.” These are the things I’ve found myself wishing I could have documented. So when I think of cute baby bed head and a family trip to the donut store or those towel-wrapped cuddles after bathtime and yeah, even those moments right after time-out when you’re having to lovingly explain why it’s not okay to hit — it’s in all of that that I see a lot of real and sweet moments just waiting to be chronicled.

Keep in mind I’m not proposing this naively. As I write this post as my 9-month-old plays with books she’s ripped the pages out of and climbs over empty print boxes and packaging materials she’s scattered on my office floor. My husband had to get up out of bed to rock her back to sleep three times the night before last. I have a constant underlying fear that she’s going to eat a bobby pin off the floor that’s fallen out of my hair. One day that won’t be what life looks like anymore. And that’s well and good but I don’t want to forget a bit of it.

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When I first pitched Darby the idea of coming to their home before the kids were even awake and documenting a morning in their home without posing or “okay now everyone smile here!” she said:

“I have a small anxiety attack when I think about actually being vulnerable enough to let someone take photos of my home and what an actual morning looks like (which is basically uncoordinated chaos with the babies). I don’t think of us having a lovely, picturesque morning routine. Mostly we look horrible in our mismatched pajamas and the whole house is in shambles. Confessedly, I’m not particularly proud of my home decorating / housekeeping skills as well.  Usually we are tag teaming children and don’t even get to spend time together in the mornings”
I told her that her house was definitely allowed to be more picked up than any given Wednesday and that I’d love for her and Wes to think about their families most favorite type of morning vs a daily-grind-just-gotta-get-out-the-door type of morning. So making waffles together (a Saturday morning favorite activity) it was. I admire Darby and Wes and the way they raise their family, serve each other, love each other and their kids. I admire how go-with-the-flow, honest and open they are. And I just want to say on the Internet that I truly believe y’all are some of the best parents around, scout’s honor. Thank you for inviting me into your home and letting me document a piece of your family life right now.
So there it is. This is how I want to document families now. It doesn’t always have to be a morning routine — it can be an outing to your favorite park, or bedtime routines, a family trip to the Grand Canyon, sky’s the limit as long as it’s an activity in the life of your family that you treasure. It’s not a show. It’s not bribe-your-kids-grit-your-teeth-JUST-ONE-MORE-SMILE-AT-THE-CAMERA-PLEASE. It’s just living your life with the ones you love most and OH HEY Jillian just happens to be there, ISN’T SHE PRETTY!!
Okay I really have to go now because Juniper is bored and crying at my feet and doesn’t care if I have any more to write or not. XOXO!

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I’m not going to lie, I’ve had such a soft spot for newborn sessions since bringing my own daughter home last fall. There is something so incredibly special about welcoming your baby home, getting to know her, putting in the hours to gradually become the only two experts on her in this world. It’s such a hazy season of life that seems to move so slowly in the day to day, and yet that newborn-ness is gone in a sleepy blink of an eye. So precious, this life.

And guys, that “Guess How Much I Love You” book paired with Kyle gazing at his daughter like that? I’m a MESS.

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Floral headband by Enchanted Bow Shop

Bunny crib mobile by MistrSandman

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Why take family photos in the sun when splashing in puddles is so much more fun? I met up with the Dotsons for their annual family session the first day back from my maternity leave with Juniper and there’s no one else I’d rather kickstart my going back to work than these fine folks. The day we had set for their photos turned out to be drizzly but the Dotsons are the type of people who just lean in and go with the flow, no need for perfection because that doesn’t exist in real life anyway. Dotsons, I love you and your sunny dispositions, no matter the forecast.

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